Lights-out shooting, defensive intensity highlight Duke women's basketball's win against Georgia Tech

Taina Mair shot 3-for-6 from three against Georgia Tech.
Taina Mair shot 3-for-6 from three against Georgia Tech.

Fresh off a narrow victory against Virginia a week ago, Duke entered Cameron Indoor Stadium determined to secure a victory and improve to a winning ACC record. And that is just what it did. In a blowout, the Blue Devils dominated Georgia Tech in just about every category and improved on their own common inconsistencies.

The most notable part of this game was Duke’s 3-point shooting. The Blue Devils went 13-22 (59.1%) from beyond the arc, a drastic improvement from their 33.3% average prior to Sunday’s game. Six of 11 players drained a three against Georgia Tech. This 3-point prowess was spearheaded by freshman guards Taina Mair and Oluchi Okananwa and sophomore guard Ashlon Jackson, each with three triples to their names. The excitement reached a peak in the third quarter, with Duke hitting five of seven 3-pointers, eliciting thunderous applause and cheers from the Cameron Crazies. The continued success from beyond the arc fueled the team's confidence and momentum throughout the game. In the first half, it attempted nine 3-pointers, with only two coming in the first quarter. However, this number surged to 13 during the second half, reflecting the team's growing assertiveness and willingness to take shots.

“We shared the ball very well. We got each other threes. We got each other open looks and I think that’s the main thing,” said sophomore guard Emma Koabel after the game. “We’re not shooting bad shots. We’re shooting good shots and they’re going to fall.”

While the Blue Devils’ impressive three point shooting was the highlight of the offensive efforts, Duke was also able to collect 13 offensive rebounds compared to its opponent’s four. This was a testament to the players’ aggression and strength on the offensive end. These second chances contributed an extra 14 points to their final tally.

“Offensively, hitting 13 threes and then rebounding, which had been a struggle for us most of the year and double them up on the board,” said head coach Kara Lawson. “So just really proud of the team and all the contributions we got from a lot of different players.”

Much of the Blue Devils’ momentum present during the game can be attributed to the relentless defensive pressure by Duke that was exhibited from the tipoff to the final buzzer. The players' tenacity was on full display as they threw themselves towards every loose ball, executed a relentless high press and battled fiercely for rebounds. This was not merely a defensive strategy; it was a manifestation of the Blue Devils’ unequivocal hunger for success. 

“We talked about pressuring the ball and disrupting their offense. And I thought we did that in particular in that first quarter,” Lawson said. “. . . We're starting to get better defensively. We've been inconsistent with it, and it was nice to see them put together a full game.”

Statistically, Duke dominated the Yellow Jackets on the defensive end. The Blue Devils outrebounded their opponents defensively with a staggering 29-17 advantage, outstripped them in steals with a 9-4 lead and out-blocked them 6-1. Georgia Tech averages 71.2 points per game, but were only able to drop 46 against Duke. Furthermore, Lawson’s squad also held the Yellow Jackets to a 34.7% field goal percentage, 8.4% less than Georgia Tech’s average. The defensive energy not only stifled the Yellow Jackets’ scoring but also provided the Blue Devils with valuable opportunities on the offensive end. Duke capitalized on turnovers, racking up 11 points from Georgia Tech’s 17 giveaways. 

Despite improvements, one lingering inconsistency persists for the Blue Devils. Their struggle with turnovers has been a season-long challenge, averaging 17.6 per game. Just 10 days ago, in a loss to Louisville, they had a staggering 27 turnovers. While they managed to reduce this number to 14 against both the Cavaliers and the Yellow Jackets, the challenge remains. With games against ranked opponents No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 6 N.C. State this coming week, Duke needs to limit the number of turnovers and prevent high-caliber teams from capitalizing to emerge unscathed. 


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